If you read my review of the 2019 Ford Mustang EcoBoost this morning, you may be wondering just where we took the little filly. Our road trip started in Seattle and ended in San Francisco and we took CA-1 along the California coast. Before we reached the ocean, however, we had one very important inland stop our readers will be very familiar with: Eugene, Oregon.
Having seen so much of Eugene – at least in the background of thousands of car photos over the years – it felt very familiar. After delicious shish kabobs and some of the best potatoes I’ve ever had, plus a delightful fruit pie and wine, Paul, Stephanie, Little Man and I went for an after-dinner walk around town. We walked through the picturesque Owen Rose Garden down to the rushing Willamette River, and then trekked up Skinner Butte.
Paul’s shared many of his findings from Skinner Butte over the years so it was a delight to finally see it in person. And on that Sunday night, it was agog with chill teens enjoying the view (and some pot) and socializing. Stephanie and I both admired a ’92-97 Cadillac Seville SLS but the real sight was Eugene at twilight, train horns blowing in the distance and the red lights of radio towers gently pulsating across town in Solar Heights.
Naturally, the streets of Eugene were positively bedevilled with classics but I respectfully kept my snaps to a minimum – I didn’t want to encroach on Paul’s turf! Besides, many of the cars we saw have already been featured on this site, including this yard of Honda Civic (aka Shuttle) wagons. Would you believe I saw more of these in one day in Eugene than I’ve seen in my life?
Actually, there is one exciting find I’ll share with you another day from this very lot. It’s almost the polar opposite of a Civic Wagon.
Our walk took us past some charming bars and restaurants in Whiteaker and the Market District and it was in this part of town that we saw this Chevrolet Celebrity. After the disastrous act of self-immolation that was the launch of the front-wheel-drive GM X-Cars, GM wisely recognized that the Chevrolet Citation’s sales trajectory was quickly resembling the Hindenburg and launched the related A-Body.
Using the same platform but with more substantial styling, the A-Body was positioned as GM’s intermediate offering, although it overlapped with the RWD G-Body (nee A-Body coupes) until 1987; G-Body wagons and sedans also continued to be sold until as late as 1987. Thanks to longer overhangs and a new wagon variant, plus Chevy and Pontiac’s substitution of hatchbacks for notchbacks, this act of platform sharing proved so successful that many didn’t even realize the A-Body was even related to the maligned X-Cars. And GM was able to charge around $2k more for a Celebrity than for a Citation.
Coming at the end of our twilight promenade, this Chevy – an ’84-85 based on the fussier grille – was a lovely find. And though I was only in Eugene for one night, it was a splendid visit thanks to the Niedermeyers and their spacious and comfortable Airbnb, scrumptious food and outstanding hospitality. It was my second time meeting Paul and my first time meeting Stephanie, who is an absolute treasure. Eugene is a charming town and it’s worth a visit, and not just for the Celebrities and Civic Wagons and diesel Rabbits that roam its streets.
Curbside Classic: 1982-90 Chevrolet Celebrity – Beating The Bull To The Rodeo
Curbside Classic: 1982-1991 Pontiac 6000 – The Power Of The Halo
Curbside Classic: 1989-96 Buick Century & Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera – Sheer Frustration
Curbside Classic: 1980 Chevrolet Citation – GM’s Deadliest Sin (#13)
Wow, those early Celebrities are mighty rare. This one looks to be an ’84 (judging from the CarFax report), and it seems interestingly equipped. It’s a base model (not a CL or Eurosport), and even has the standard wheel covers, but it was equipped with the optional 2.8L V-6.
Looks like it has the one-piece bench seat too, and though it’s hard to tell from the pictures, the upholstery sure looks a little shiny, so maybe it’s vinyl? I think that cloth was standard, even for the one-piece bench, but vinyl was a no-cost option… pretty rare to have seen one of these with vinyl if that’s in fact the case.
Glad Eugene welcomed you with a genuine CC! The only thing that would make this find better is if it were a diesel!
No Celebrity diesel but I’m pretty sure a diesel Rabbit was one of the first cars we saw as we drove into town.
Boy, that studio image from the side of the Celebrity is really nice. Too bad the car doesn’t live up to that.
It was a splendid evening indeed; a celebrity in our midst!
Looks like you had a fine drive down the coast.
Thank you again for your outstanding hospitality! And I hope Stephanie had a lovely trip out of town.
Always liked the looks of these, particularly the early models — I’m a big fan of boxy, low-key, utilitarian-looking vehicles, particularly domestics. But based on my own experience with GM’s A-bodies I’m amazed anyone has had the patience to keep this one going for so long…both of mine were breaking down constantly at much, much younger ages than this…
It wasn’t intended to be low key and utilitarian. It was intended to be aspirational.
What a great writeup of Eugene and what an impressive find! Chevy Celebrities are pretty much extinct here in Tualatin. Considering this car’s license plates are so new I wonder what its backstory is? A recent transplant? A Eugene native that got new plates while keeping the same owner?
I’ve been looking at this car wondering “Is this the car we had at work”? We had an absolutely identical ’84 which was initially assigned to senior management. It made it way downstream to life as a pool car by the time I drove it. It was a hell of a lot better than the early Lumina that replaced it. Maybe the Celebrity made its way up to Eugene from the Bay Area like PN did.
Contrary to some of the comments here, I found these to be decent cars, and the ’84 at work suffered only from mild “morning sickness” in the steering rack. We had a former rental ’85 in a similar hue with fuel injection that the fleet supervisor insisted was the best car in the fleet. I’m no fan of GM anymore, but I do have a certain affinity for the A bodies.
I think Eric703 pulled a Carfax on this car, maybe he can tell us the ownership history on it? Would be cool if it was the same car you used to drive.
I shouldn’t have written Carfax “report”… I just did the free, online version that provides the year, make/ model and some other basic info. It’s a good way to ID the correct year, but unfortunately doesn’t give ownership information or other fun stuff.
Nice summation of your visit, very similar to mine a few days after you, too bad we missed each other and couldn’t make that work. I too kept seeing familiar scenery as well as cars while in Eugene, it was almost eerie, the janitor’s Jaguar (still parked at the house) being the standout of the bunch.
Walking around we actually saw at least one CC that Paul hadn’t seen in Eugene before – He’d had been wanting to find one like it for some time and I got to enjoy seeing the master at work. Watching him work the iPhone as he perused and circled his prey it was probably a little like watching Ansel Adams setting up and getting ready to shoot Half Dome… 🙂
And then we found a motorhome, well that was another shoot, hopefully we’ll see it here soon…
Sorry, just can’t get that excited about a Celebrity, my folks had the same exact one but as a wagon in that same pale chiffon color with the shuny beige vinyl. Ugh, what a pile. But I’m happy you got to see it! 🙂
The Celebrity always had clean lines, a decent amount of room, and the drivetrain was adequate. I had an ’87 Eurosport with the Iron Duke/Tech 4, and it was, well again I would say adequate. it was pewter-gray with a burgundy interior. It actually looked kinda sharp, and it had a nice padded steering wheel. I guess that was the “Euro” part. Got great mileage and was great in the snow with the skinny cheap tires I put on it. I put a red pnstripe down the middle of that side trim and it worked for it. I got it at 90,000 miles and at around 150,000 it needed new injectors and wasn’t worth doing. But before that it needed nothing at all. Except those cheap tires, which I regretted because it killed what little handling it had and cornered like a waterbed.
On a side note, have you ever noticed those skinny, soft, cheap tires work really well in the snow on a front-drive car, especially a nose-heavy one like the Celebrity and most American FWD cars from those days? I was able to push other people out of snow drifts with the Celebrity and it was amazing at it.
I liked Chevies back then. They always started well in sub-zero and always seemed to get better mileage than the equivalent Fords. I’ve had many GMs and Fords in which this was the case. Fords always had tighter bodies and better interiors though.
Now I’m just gonna shut up because this comment is getting long…
Bye for now.
Ive still only seen one lebrity in the metal, the one with a forsale notice in a paddock on the Hauraki plains grass up to the side windows it will be well overgrown by now if its still there, also one appeared on trade me billed as an American muscle car it was a V6 but really, so thats two that have washed up over here, I’ll keep looking.
Glad to hear of your good visit. Dad had an 86 or 87 Celebrity with the 2.8 V6 that worked quite well for him-cushy ride, pretty good power, carried a lot of people and stuff, just like a Chevy! I drove it on several occasions, loaded down with family, and found it very soft riding-though it had adequate suspension travel-but plenty quick. A friend had a Celebrity Eurosport wagon that we still talk about. And the brakes worked on both, no rear-wheel lock ups. What did GM do to fix the brakes on these well-disguised Citations?
Wow, finding a CC that Paul has missed when you spend a single day in Eugene is quite the accomplishment! I never thought much about these at the time, but as one whose brain tended to Mopar and Ford in the early 80s these made me jealous. Chrysler had nothing to compete with them for size and the Ford Fox LTD was still on the “old fashioned” rear drive platform that everyone in the know about cars only talked about when rolling their eyes. Then the Taurus came along and changed everything.
And Stephanie being a treasure is another point where we agree.
The A was about the smallest car GM was willing to put real effort into. Below that, and you got junky J cars and pitiful, wheezing Chevettes. The early Celebrity was overpriced, especially with the Malibu next to it in the showroom, but GM quickly figured it out. They were generally (everything has its exceptions) solid, well sorted cars, durable, efficient, roomy, comfortable cars. They had more of a premium feel than the K cars, which no matter how much vinyl roof and chrome and electric window glop Iacocca put on them still came across as inexpensive and utilitarian. They were considerably larger inside than any of the Japanese competition, and Ford didn’t have anything more modern than the reworked Fairmonts until the Taurus came out. The Celebrity and its brethren sold well, even after the Taurus came out.
Unlike a Malibu/Cutlass/Regal, the A body wasn’t really *fun* to drive for anyone over the age of, say, 22. People under that age can make the most pedestrian cars do some pretty amazing things.
GM did a great job of hiding the X roots. Someone told me at one point the X and A doors interchanged and I was shocked.
I agree with Ohwonesten that the Celebrity was better than the Lumina. The Celebrity had an inexpensive purposefulness to it, and although not very premium, seemed all of a piece and better designed. The Lumina was dreary and clearly cheapened and half baked. Everything about the Lumina seemed at cross purposes. Weird, narrow, gunslit instrument cluster? Why? Cheap, ugly upholstery? Yup. A general feeling of poor assembly, poor quality, slapdash design, poor dynamics? Yes.
I believe the Lumina dash design was meant to hearken back to the old Impala from the sixties. The gunslit was obviously designed to accommodate ribbon-style guages, but for whatever reason, tiny round ones were mandated.
At the time I thought – and still do – that the worst thing about the Celebrity was the name.
After my Citation experience, I didn’t touch another GM car for about a decade. Finally, the State made me drive to a meeting in a Celebrity. For some odd reason, the leg room in front was too short, (not a problem for my Citation), the dashboard design was too weird to be comfortable with, and it was completely gutless. I had been tooling around in a Sable, so the transition to the Celebrity was quite a let-down. The Celebrity seemed very old and dated.
Contrary to what some people say about GM’s FWD A bodies, they were actually very good cars. I had an ’86 Celebrity Eurosport with the 2.8 V6 purchased new in Nov. 85. The Celebrity was quiet, very comfortable, rode smoothly and very easy to maneuver. The car had nice firm steering that provided reasonable feedback making long drives a pleasure. I loved the fact that the car had such great visibility something of which modern cars score very low on. I never had any problems with my Celebrity for the 6 years and 130K miles that I owned it. The only issues were minor oil leaks and flaking paint on the hood. I currently drive a 2015 Ford Fusion and my old Celebrity actually had a smoother, quieter ride and much more comfortable seats, better visibility and better feeling steering.